OSU meets Bush's call for bio-energy research

February 8, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. - President Bush's 2006 State-of-the-Union address included a challenging goal: "to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." As a critical component of his proposal, the president pledged support for research in cutting-edge methods to produce biofuels.

That research is already underway at Oregon State University.

The federal government has granted $8 million over four years to OSU as one of the country's five Sun Grant centers of excellence -- regional hubs charged with research and development of new technologies for using agricultural wastes, residues and new crops for the production of bio-energy.

"The research being conducted through OSU's Sun Grant Center will contribute directly to our meeting President Bush's challenge for energy independence," said OSU President Edward Ray.

As a Sun Grant Center, OSU is the lead university representing nine western states, plus the Pacific Territories and associated Pacific island nations.

OSU faculty are already working to harness microorganisms to produce hydrogen for fuel cells, growing crops for biofuel and finding replacements for petroleum with plant-based lubricants and pharmaceuticals.

"Investing in bio-energy research and education supports American farms, ranches and forests, creates jobs in rural communities and benefits the environment," said Thayne Dutson, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, which hosts the Sun Grant Center.

Here are a few projects related to bio-energy and bio-products already under way at OSU:

  • Michael Penner, a food scientist, is studying how to convert agricultural residues, particularly straw, into energy and other bio-based products;
  • Hong Liu, a bioengineer, is working to develop a microbial fuel cell that can use wastewater and sewage to generate electricity, simultaneously cleaning the water;
  • Roger Ely, a bioengineer, is conducting research needed to allow the production of hydrogen for fuel cells by microorganisms that use solar energy to split water;
  • Don Wysocki, an Extension agronomist at OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center at Pendleton, is working with farmers and others to identify crops such as canola that can be grown and used to produce biodiesel fuel;
  • David Hackleman and associates in OSU's College of Engineering are developing reactor technology for the production of biodiesel fuel. They plan to build and operate a pilot-scale facility on campus, using waste grease from campus dining halls;
  • Goran Jovanovic and his associates at the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) developed a microscale biodiesel reactor that is more efficient and has potential to eliminate the need for harmful liquid catalyst;
  • Loren Kellog and his colleagues in OSU's College of Forestry are examining the potential of Oregon's 12.2 million acres of overstocked forest stands for wood biomass utilization in bio-energy, bio-fuels and industrial compounds.
  • For more examples of OSU's Sun Grant activities, see: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/oap/story.php?S_No=158&storyType=oap&page=1

    The university also has active research programs involving nuclear energy, wave energy, wind energy and other areas.

    Author: Peg Herring
    Source: Jan Auyong